Taking advantage of a cool morning a few days ago, the girls and I grabbed our straw hats and went berry picking again (here). Besides all the wonderful raspberries, boysenberries and marionberries stretched out before us as far as the eye could see, we came upon this little nest hidden among the thorny branches. Three new hatchlings, but no parent birds around to determine their type. From their size and location I am guessing Bluejay as they are not too terribly particular about where they build a nest once they find a good food source. It was barely five feet off the ground. When I reached in to pluck a berry they were directly in my line of sight. Surprise! Fortunately, I had my trusty camera tucked into my apron pocket.
This sweet discovery didn't slow us down one bit though, because we were on a mission.
We were focused on these! And It wasn't long before our baskets were bulging and we were back on the dusty road headed for our kitchen. After lunch and a brief respite, the jam making began. Out came the boxes of old-fashioned quilted jelly jars and my best marionberry jam recipe, the one made with agar agar. If you are not familiar with this product, you can read more about it here on my 'Just Jamming' post. (I will also sometimes make jams using xylitol, a sugar-substitue; a really good recipe for sugarless strawberry jam is here. This is good if you are on a restricted diet, and is also a healthy alternative if you just want to cut back on sugar in general.) Freezer jam is easy and convenient for small batches. For long-term storage of larger quantities, I still do it the old way. But with a new twist. Using agar agar is super quick and makes an excellent jam; retaining the flavor and color and without having to rely on pectin.
Recipe for Marionberry Jam:
8 cups fresh berries, crushed; 3 cups granulated vegan sugar; Juice of one lemon; 4 T. agar agar powder + 1/4 cup sugar. (Mix the last two ingredients together and prepare to sift it into the pot later.) Combine the crushed fruit, lemon juice, and sugar in large stainless steel kettle or soup pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, about 10 minutes. Sift-sprinkle the agar-sugar mixture into the pot, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Boil rapidly for about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and ladle jam into hot, sterilized 8 oz. jars. Jam will be loose, but will set up as it cools. Wipe glass rims with a clean, damp paper towel, place new lids on top, and secure with a screw ring. Allow the jars to cool on the countertop without disturbance. When you hear the "pop" you know the lid has sealed. Once completely cooled (I let jars sit overnight), check lids, label and date everything. Store jam jars in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry, away from sunlight. Generally, I keep my homemade jams on the shelf up to 3 years. They are usually consumed long before this, but in case you were wondering, this is a safe guideline. (Refridgerate any jars that fail to seal; they'll keep about 2-3 weeks.) Yeilds 10-11 jars.
Now back to the business at hand. . . . toast and jam with tea.